Achilles Tendonitis/Tendinopathy and Needling

Achilles pain. You can’t live with it and you can’t live with it. Can needling help? The obvious answer is yes, but there is more as well.

There appears to be sufficient data to support the use of needling for achilles tendon problems . Perhaps it is the “reorganization” of collagen that makes it effective or a blood flow/vascularization phenomenon. The mechanism probably has something to do with pain and the reticular formation sending information down the cord via the lateral cell column (intermediolateral cell nucleus) or pain (nociceptive) afferents sending a collateral in the spinal cord to the dysfunctional muscle, affecting the alpha receptors and causing vasodilation. 

Loss of ankle dorsiflexion is a common factor that seems to contribute to achilles tendinopathies . It would seem that improving ankle rocker would be most helpful. In at least one study, needling restored ankle function and in another it improved strength. 

And don’t forget to go north of the lower leg/foot/ankle complex. The gluteus medius can many times the culprit as well. During running, the gluteus medius usually fires before heel strike, most likely to stabilize the hip and the pelvis. In runners with Achilles Tendonitis, its firing is delayed which may affect the kinematics of knee and ankle resulting in rear foot inversion. Perhaps the delayed action of the gluteus medius allows an adductory moment of the pelvis, moving the center of gravity medially. This could conceivably place additional stress on the achilles tendon (via the lateral gastroc) to create more eversion of the foot from midstance onward.

Similarly, in runners with achilles tendoinopathy, the gluteus maximus does not fire as long and activation is delayed. The glute max should be the primary hip extensor and decreased hip extension might be compensated by an increased ankle plantarflexion which could potentially increase the load on the Achilles tendon. 

So, in short, yes, needling will probably help, for these reasons and probably many more. Make sure to needle all the dysfunctional muscles up the chain, beginning at the foot and moving rostrally.

Effectiveness of Acupuncture Therapies to Manage Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Extremities: A Systematic Review. Cox J, Varatharajan S, Côté P, Optima Collaboration. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2016 Jun;46(6):409-29. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2016.6270. Epub 2016 Apr 26

Acupuncture’s role in tendinopathy: new possibilities. Speed C. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):7-8. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010746. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

The effect of electroacupuncture on tendon repair in a rat Achilles tendon rupture model.  Inoue M, Nakajima M, Oi Y, Hojo T, Itoi M, Kitakoji H. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):58-64. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010611. Epub 2014 Oct 21.

KIishmishian B, Selfe J, Richards J A Historical Review of Acupuncture to the Achilles Tendon and the development of a standardized protocol for its use Journal of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherpists Spring 2012,  69-78

Acupuncture for chronic Achilles tendnopathy: a randomized controlled study. Zhang BM1, Zhong LW, Xu SW, Jiang HR, Shen J. Chin J Integr Med. 2013 Dec;19(12):900-4. doi: 10.1007/s11655-012-1218-4. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

The effect of dry needling and treadmill running on inducing pathological changes in rat Achilles tendon. Kim BS, Joo YC, Choi BH, Kim KH, Kang JS, Park SR. Connect Tissue Res. 2015 Nov;56(6):452-60. doi: 10.3109/03008207.2015.1052876. Epub 2015 Jul 29.

Tendon needling for treatment of tendinopathy: A systematic review.
Krey D, Borchers J, McCamey K. Phys Sportsmed. 2015 Feb;43(1):80-6. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2015.1004296. Epub 2015 Jan 22. Review.

Acupuncture increases the diameter and reorganisation of collagen fibrils during rat tendonhealing.
de Almeida Mdos S, de Freitas KM, Oliveira LP, Vieira CP, Guerra Fda R, Dolder MA, Pimentel ER. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):51-7. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010548. Epub 2014 Aug 19.

Electroacupuncture increases the concentration and organization of collagen in a tendon healing model in rats.
de Almeida Mdos S, de Aro AA, Guerra Fda R, Vieira CP, de Campos Vidal B, Rosa Pimentel E. Connect Tissue Res. 2012;53(6):542-7. doi: 10.3109/03008207.2012.710671. Epub 2012 Aug 14.

Changes in blood circulation of the contralateral Achilles tendon during and after acupunctureand heating.Kubo K, Yajima H, Takayama M, Ikebukuro T, Mizoguchi H, Takakura N. Int J Sports Med. 2011 Oct;32(10):807-13. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1277213. Epub 2011 May 26.

Microcirculatory effects of acupuncture and hyperthermia on Achilles tendon microcirculation. Kraemer R, Vogt PM, Knobloch K.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jul;109(5):1007-8. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1442-6. Epub 2010 Mar 28.

Effects of acupuncture and heating on blood volume and oxygen saturation of human Achilles tendon in vivo. Kubo K, Yajima H, Takayama M, Ikebukuro T, Mizoguchi H, Takakura N. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jun;109(3):545-50. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1368-z. Epub 2010 Feb 6.

 Insertional achilles tendinopathy associated with altered transverse compressive and axial tensile strain during ankle dorsiflexion. Chimenti RL, Bucklin M, Kelly M, Ketz J, Flemister AS, Richards MS, Buckley MR.
J Orthop Res. 2016 Jun 16. doi: 10.1002/jor.23338. [Epub ahead of print]

Forefoot and rearfoot contributions to the lunge position in individuals with and without insertionalAchilles tendinopathy. Chimenti RL, Forenza A, Previte E, Tome J, Nawoczenski DA.Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2016 Jul;36:40-5. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 May 11.

Ankle Power and Endurance Outcomes Following Isolated Gastrocnemius Recession for AchillesTendinopathy. Nawoczenski DA, DiLiberto FE, Cantor MS, Tome JM, DiGiovanni BF. Foot Ankle Int. 2016 Mar 17. pii: 1071100716638128. [Epub ahead of print]

 In vivo quantification of the shear modulus of the human Achilles tendon during passive loading using shear wave dispersion analysis.
Helfenstein-Didier C, Andrade RJ, Brum J, Hug F, Tanter M, Nordez A, Gennisson JL. Phys Med Biol. 2016 Mar 21;61(6):2485-96. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/61/6/2485. Epub 2016 Mar 7.

Changes of gait parameters and lower limb dynamics in recreational runners with achillestendinopathy. Kim S, Yu J. J Sports Sci Med. 2015 May 8;14(2):284-9. eCollection 2015 Jun.

Gastrocnemius recession for foot and ankle conditions in adults: Evidence-based recommendations. Cychosz CC, Phisitkul P, Belatti DA, Glazebrook MA, DiGiovanni CW. Foot Ankle Surg. 2015 Jun;21(2):77-85. doi: 10.1016/j.fas.2015.02.001. Epub 2015 Feb 26. Review.

Limited ankle dorsiflexion increases the risk for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy in infantry recruits: a prospective cohort study. Rabin A, Kozol Z, Finestone AS. J Foot Ankle Res. 2014 Nov 18;7(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s13047-014-0048-3. eCollection 2014.

Perry J. Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function. Thorofare, NJ: Slack 1992.

Chan YY, Mok KM, Yung PSh, Chan KM. Sports Med Arthrosc Rehabil Ther Technol. 2009 Jul 30;1:14. doi: 10.1186/1758-2555-1-14.

Bilateral effects of 6 weeks’ unilateral acupuncture and electroacupuncture on ankle dorsiflexors muscle strength: a pilot study. Zhou S, Huang LP, Liu J, Yu JH, Tian Q, Cao LJ. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Jan;93(1):50-5. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.08.010. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

Franettovich Smith MM1, Honeywill C, Wyndow N, Crossley KM, Creaby MW. : Neuromotor control of gluteal muscles in runners with achilles tendinopathy.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Mar;46(3):594-9.

Take good look at these gals. The gal on the left (in blue) looks like she has a level pelvis, but look at the upper body. She’s leaning to the left and has a great deal of torso rotation backward. One of the clues is the abduction of her left arm. Also note how her right arm crosses across her body. We wonder how she looks in right foot stance.

The gal on the left (in red) has a subtle dip of the right side of her pelvis and also has over rotation of her upper body. Her right on crossing the body is a good reason to believe she will have a crossover gait if viewed from straight on.

While both of these gals may have adequate strength, we question how much endurance they have as well as available rotation in the hips and lumbar spine.

This is an excellent, referenced review of some of the current literature and controversy of strength and injury risk. A good read and certainly worth your time to get caught up on what’s current. We would love to see you study on endurance and injury risk.

“While muscle strength may improve tolerance of loads during running, another reason for inconsistencies in the reported relationships between strength and injury risk may be that strength is typically assessed isometrically. It’s unclear how much of an influence peak isometric strength has on the dynamic task of running, and specifically on prolonged running in the presence of muscular fatigue. Schmitz et al found that, while isometric hip strength values were similar between novice and experienced runners, hip internal rotation motion during running was higher in the novice runners, suggesting isometric strength may not correlate strongly with muscular control and kinematics during running.”

http://lermagazine.com/article/lower-extremity-strength-and-injury-risk-in-runners

and what have we been saying about loss of ankle rocker and achilles tendon problems for years now?

Here is a FREE, FULL TEXT article talking all about it

“A more limited ankle Dorsi Flexion ROM as measured in Non Weight Bearing with the knee bent increases the risk of developing Achilles Tendinopathy among military recruits taking part in intensive physical training.”

J Foot Ankle Res. 2014 Nov 18;7(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s13047-014-0048-3. eCollection 2014.Limited ankle dorsiflexion increases the risk for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy in infantry recruits: a prospective cohort study.Rabin A1, Kozol Z, Finestone AS.

link to full text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243387/

Do quarter squats transfer best to sprinting?

We have always said that exercises are specific as to the type of exercise (isometric, isotonic, isokinetic) as well as the speed of exercise. And this backs that up, with a surprise:

Unexpectedly, QUARTER produced superior gains in both vertical jump height and 40-yard sprint running times, compared with both HALF and FULL. give it a read, especially the vertical jump section..

https://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/promotions/quarter-squats-transfer-sprinting/

Those Multifidi

The multifidi are important proprioceptive sentinels for the low back, as well as the rest of the body, for virtually every activity you do weight bearing, including gait. They are implicated in many instances of low back pain, especially folks with flexion or extension intolerance, since their fiber orientation and thus mechanical advantage (or disadvantage) is dependent upon whether or not you are maintaining a normal lumbar lordosis.

Modalities which boost their function are an excellent adjunct to the rehabilitation process. Since they are not under volitional control (go ahead, try and contract your L2/L3 multifidus), they are innervated by the vestibulospinal tract and we must use proprioceptive work to engage them. Dry Needling is one modality that can help them to become functional again.

RESULTS and CONCLUSION:
“Significant difference was found in the percentage of change of muscle activation post needling between groups on the right side at level L4-5. A slight increase in the percentage of muscle activity, post procedure was observed in the dry needling group compared with the control group, although not significant in other segments examined. An improvement of back muscle function following dry needling procedure in healthy individuals was found. This implies that dry needling might stimulate motor nerve fibers and as such increase muscle activity.”

see also our post here.

J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2015 Sep 6. [Epub ahead of print]
The immediate effect of dry needling on multifidus muscles’ function in healthy individuals. Dar G1,2, Hicks GE3.

Yay for the lift, spread and reach exercise!

Toe spreads and squeezes are aimed at strengthening specific intrinsic foot muscles—the dorsal and plantar interrosei, according to Irene S. Davis, PhD, PT, director of the Spaulding National Running Center and a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Doming or foot shortening exercises contract most of the muscles on the plantar side of the foot, and help to strengthen the abductor hallucis muscle

see our post here: https://tmblr.co/ZrRYjx1iuSYMM

Goo YM, Heo HJ, An DH. EMG activity of the abductor hallucis muscle during foot arch exercises using different weight bearing postures. J Phys Ther Sci 2014;26(10):1635-1636.

How are your hammy’s?

Another tool for you, in addition to making sure the gluten are on line, to improve ankle rocker and hip extension.

“This study concludes that neural mobilization techniques are a useful adjunct to static stretching, without any risk of adverse events or injuries. Athletes or trainers can consider using one or both types of neural mobilization techniques to enhance muscular flexibility. Dosage of the neural mobilization as well as the proposed working mechanism behind the increase in hamstring flexibility can be found in the full text of the article.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26482098

Phys Ther Sport. 2016 Jan;17:30-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2015.03.003. Epub 2015 Mar 17.
Short term effectiveness of neural sliders and neural tensioners as an adjunct to static stretching of hamstrings on knee extension angle in healthy individuals: A randomized controlled trial.
Sharma S, Balthillaya G2, Rao R, Mani R .

Sounds like a bad idea

Orthotics, can be useful adjunct to care. They can be used to give people biomechanics that they do not have while you were trying to improve them and help to make up for ranges of motion which do not seem attainable.

From the gate cycle we know that after initial contact and loading response the calcaneus should start to evert. The calcaneus will continue to evert until it encounters something (like the lateral heel counter of the shoe). At mid stance it should be fully everted and as the opposite leg comes in to swing, begin to invert. The lateral heel counter assists in the inversion/supination process.

To our knowledge, flip-flops, even if they have an increased arch, do not have a lateral heel counter and therefore will promote further lateral excursion of the calcaneus while the medial longitudinal arch is collapsing  (i.e.: midfoot pronation). Go ahead and place your foot into inversion and see what happens to your heel. It’s slides laterally.

It’s also well-established that flip-flops, through flexion of the distal toes and engagement of the long flexor tendons, inhibits ankle rocker. It is often necessary to engage these muscles to keep the flip-flop from coming off. Lack of ankle rocker usually will inhibit hip extension and that can cause a constellation of problems.

Though engagement of the long flexors of the toes will have a partial anti-pronatory effect, this is not enough to counter the excessive heel  eversion which is happening.

We generally do not think the flip-flops are a great idea and telling someone that it’s “OK” to wear flip-flops as long as it has appropriate arch support, is silly.

So here is somewhat of a controversial subject.

Perhaps, though not discussed in this article, activating more axial extensors (vestbulospinal pathways, things like your erector spinae) could be somewhat protective, in that it could, at least theoretically, help to normalize flexor/extensor ratios in the lower extremity. 

We see flexor dominance (increased corticospinal activity) in many cases of lower extremity problems causing an imbalance. Perhaps activating extensors the lower extremity (tibialis interior, extensor digitorum longest, etc.) could explain, in part, some of these (controversial) results.

We’re not recommending or condoning taking up smoking to preserve your knees. This is merely food for thought in the ever-changing landscape of clinical application.

http://lermagazine.com/cover_story/smoking-knee-oa-from-clinical-controversy-to-therapeutic-possibility

Can you guess why this person has left-sided plantar fasciitis?

This question probably seem somewhat rhetorical. Take a good look at these pedographs which provide us some excellent clues.

First of all,  note how much pressure there is over the metatarsal heads. This is usually a clue that people are lacking ankle rocker and pressuring these heads as the leg cantilevers forward.  This person definitely have a difficult time getting the first metatarsal head down to the ground.

Notice the overall size of the left foot compared to the right (right one is splayed or longer). This is due to keeping the foot and somewhat of a supinated posture to prevent excessive tension on the plantar fascia.

The increase splay of the right foot indicates more mid foot pronation and if you look carefully there is slightly more printing at the medial longitudinal arch. This is contributing to the clawing of the second third and fourth toes on the right. Stand up, overpronate your right foot and notice how your center of gravity (and me) move medially.The toes will often clench in an attempt to create stability.

The patient’s pain is mostly at the medial and lateral calcaneal facets, and within the substance of the quadratus plantae with weakness of that muscle and the extensor digitorum longus. She has 5° ankle dorsiflexion left and 10 degrees on the right and hip extension which is similar.

The lack of ankle rocker and hip extension or causing her to pronate through her midfoot, Tensioning are plantar fascia at the insertion. The problem is worse on the left and therefore that is where the symptoms are.

Pedographs can be useful tool in the diagnostic process and provide clues as to biomechanical faults in the gait cycle.